Press-Republican

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July 12, 2009

Property owners clear portion of historic local fort

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CUMBERLAND HEAD — Fort Izard sits on a rise overlooking Lake Champlain, a sentinel guarding the region from invaders traveling south on the lake.

At least that is what Gen. George Izard believed when he ordered construction of the earthen structure in May 1814 as American troops prepared for the arrival of a British flotilla from Canada.

WALLS AND MOAT

The fortress included high walls of stone and dirt on four sides with wooden towers erected on each of the four corners and a moat surrounding the entire structure.

By August, the fortification was ready to protect Plattsburgh Bay as a refuge for the American fleet.

But then Izard received orders to move most of his troops to Sackets Harbor, and Fort Izard was abandoned as the remaining troops moved back to fortifications built in and around Plattsburgh.

The fort never played a significant role in the ensuing Battle of Plattsburgh and became a mere footnote in the archives of American military history.

CHILDHOOD MEMORIES

But for Jane Babbie, who grew up as one of six Hagar children on the property where the remains of Fort Izard survive, the walls of the structure provide a plethora of memories.

"We used to slide down the hill and onto the ice," Babbie said as she walked along a path at the top of the fortress walls. "We used to skate on the ice. We even had a little bridge that went across the moat."

In those days, the family used the property as grazing land for their cattle, and the fort remained relatively clear of brush.

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